Let’s talk about #inequality.
Inequality surrounds us all the time. We learn to judge as soon as we draw breath on this world, and with judgement, we strive to be better, be different, be an individual. And with all that, we submit to inequality in our lives.
So why do we fight for equality when inequality comes as naturally to us as breathing?
With inequality comes positive as well as negative outcomes. Racism, gender divide, social and financial issues, you name it, it comes with inequality. Positives? Well, it drives us to learn, to work harder, to improve, to question, to change. When we were given the ability to think, we were cursed with inequality.
We have to be realistic about the world we live in. If you gave two people identical life choices, they will inevitably grow up to be different people, because ‘identical life choices’ isn’t a real thing. Our DNA, ancestral cultures, social paths, education system, even the air we breath, makes us different from the next person. With these natural divides, how can we ask for equality?
In a recent article in The Guardian by Russell Brand, he says that “We humans have an inherent sense of fairness. Deep down, we don’t like inequality.” There is some truth in this, as much as there is truth in that we do not know how to live without inequality.
In the current day and age, we have been taught to want things to be black and white. It’s either equal or unequal. It’s either right or wrong. And this, is the basis of the problem. Life isn’t binary. Life is many shades of grey, and we need to learn to embrace this, and work with it.
What I propose is for us to understand our inequalities, but not to point out the faults. Rather, learn to work around the faults to promote equality. Compromise.
If we promote equality by making issues like discrimination taboo, then we are only making things worse. You, me, and everyone around us inevitably make judgemental comments on everyone around us. Whether it’s petty (she’s pretty, he’s tubby) or inadvertently serious (he’s black, she’s gay), it’s in all our heads. To completely censor us would just bury the issue and not correct it.
Perhaps we could learn to address these comments. When we say ‘she’s Chinese’, what are the undercurrent meanings tagged to the statement? Is it just a fact, or does it come with the lingering ideas of ‘she’s an immigrant, she doesn’t belong, she must be hardworking, her family must own a restaurant, etc.’ Every time we make a comment, I propose that we consider what we mean within the comment, and we try and correct that.
When I was young (growing up in Malaysia), I was told that my Indian classmates have head lice, and that if I played with them, I would get it too. That statement is probably commonly heard by Malaysian children of different cultures, but growing up, it places the nuance of ‘dirty’ against ‘Indian’. It’s just the way we catalogue our thoughts. Of course, I have since learnt that this is worse than wrong, and that children, regardless of race and culture are all susceptible to head lice, if they don’t maintain good hygiene. So, why not teach kids about hygiene rather than to stay away from certain classmates? The way we educate the new generation is one key way to start working on the issues of inequality.
However, even in this example, consider that it would mean moving away from racial discrimination into hygiene and cleanliness divide. Many might think that this is more acceptable, where kids will grow up with the ideas that dirty is bad and clean is good. But, think about the implications towards helping the homeless people who might not have that much access to facilities, as an example. If we see dirt as bad, would we go out of our way to help those who are seen to be not as clean? Would the dirty get dirtier with the clean, cleaner, as how the poor and rich are?
I do not know the answers to any of this, and I invite you to consider how convoluted these ideas can become before we tell others how to be ‘equal’. We aren’t good or evil, we aren’t right or wrong. We’re everything in between, but if we put effort into it, and learn to look at our own actions more openly, then perhaps there is hope for us to be a little more equal than before.
Learn to manage your own comments, thoughts and actions, and never judge someone else’s, whether it’s from your family, friends or from strangers. Then, perhaps there would be hope in equality.